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Our top 10 coaching sound bites

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Using a few pithy words that contain a profound meaning and have particular relevance to your target audience can work absolute wonders.

A well-delivered sound bite will encapsulate the essence of your message and increase the chances of people remembering the key point you are trying to make.

Little wonder that, in the field of coach education, clever and concise catchlines are in ample supply.

They are effective because they cut straight to the chase, sharpening people’s focus and making them think by sparking the creative part of their brain. They can leave an indelible mark on a person’s memory.

Everyone likes a catchy turn of phrase – just ask Roy Walker! So take advantage of them. It’s what they are there for.

In no particular order, here are some memorable sound bites that have popped up on ConnectedCoaches.

Feel free to add your favourites to the list by adding a comment at the end of the post.

  1. ‘Make training sessions a safe place to fail’

safe place to fail

Failure is regarded as profoundly negative in our culture. As all good coaches will tell you, that outlook is profoundly wrong. ‘A progressive attitude towards failure is the cornerstone of success,’ writes Matthew Syed in his book Black Box Thinking. And, as we explain in depth in our blog on ‘failure’, every time we fail we learn, with perseverance the key to improvement. Andrew Beavan states: ‘Turn every unsuccessful outcome into an opportunity to do better next time.’ 

Quote taken from the blog: Don't use the F word: Helping children deal with failure

  1. ‘Emotions drive thoughts, thoughts drive behaviour, behaviour drives performance.’


Tied in with the concept of emotional intelligence (EI), the phrase impresses on coaches the importance of understanding and controlling your emotions – and the emotions of your participants – in order to be able to perform to your absolute potential. And while we’re on the subject of EI, remember this: emotional intelligence is being intelligent about your emotions. There you go, two soundbites for the price of one.

Quote taken from the blog: Emotional intelligence is integral to becoming a great coach

  1. ‘Avoid reeling off a long list of commandments – thou shalt not impose too many dos and don’ts on your players!’

thou shalt not

Children turn up week after week because they like having fun. They get excited by the opportunity to run around, to throw, catch, kick. And they get excited by the opportunity to be around their friends, to chat, to giggle. Treat them like they are in a school classroom and they might not come back the following week.

Quote taken from the blog: How to inspire good behaviour in your sessions

  1. ‘It’s not about being THE best, it’s about being YOUR best.’


Developing a growth mindset, and believing in constant incremental improvements, helps people become the best they can be. People with a growth mindset are excited by challenges, not alarmed by them; they appreciate that a person’s personal qualities are not genetic traits that are set in stone; they aren’t frightened of making mistakes and breaking out of their comfort zone, as they regard taking risks as an opportunity to learn and develop their abilities, which will help them fulfil their potential as performers.

Quote taken from the blog: Growth industry: Advocating a mindset revolution in coaching

  1. ‘Don’t speak unless it improves on silence’

Feedback frenzy 

Feedback is a wonderful thing. But there is a time and a place for everything. In order for information to be retained, it needs to be short, sticky (easy to remember) and understood. It also needs to be repeated and reinforced, says Nick Ruddock. However, there is only so much information that an athlete can digest and retain, so it is crucial that they retain the important bits. Consider giving ‘tweet’ length feedback, says Nick, which is providing your information in 140 characters or less!

Quote taken from the blog: Feedback Frenzy

  1. ‘By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail’


One that everyone has heard of. First uttered by Benjamin Franklin, the American revolutionary, diplomat and inventor, and a favourite expression of legendary basketball coach John Wooden. Very simple to understand, and very effective when put into practice. In even simpler terms, it states that the difference between winning and losing can be your level of preparedness; fail to prepare, and your chances recede. A favourite tactic employed by elite coaches when preparing an athlete for a competition is to take them out of their comfort zone by imposing various constraints that aim to replicate the pressures of competition day. This tests their mental focus, so when the big day arrives it is not a total shock to the system and anxiety levels are reduced. 

Quote taken from the blog: Blessed or stressed? Dealing with pressure in sport

  1. ‘Release your animal instinct!’


No, this is not the catch line to a Lynx deodorant spray advert. And please don’t flush the advice down the Eau de Toilette! More of an instruction, but a soundbite too in the sense that the message is succinct and certainly catches your attention. It relates to the link between fundamental movement skills and creativity in coaching, with the idea that picking exercises that combine the fun factor with the development of movement competency is a great way of keeping children engaged. And replicating animal shapes (an alligator crawl, a hopping kangaroo, a prowling lion) is always a roar-ing success in sessions! And remember, if coaches are being creative in what they do, then it helps the kids be creative too. 

Quote taken from the blog: Revolutionary research inspires new approach to coaching ‘Fundamentals of Movement’

  1. ‘Prevention is better than cure’

Behaviour changeThis sound bite is interwoven with behaviour change theory and has taken on extra significance in light of the nation’s inactivity crisis, which has subsequently sparked an obesity epidemic and sharp rise in diabetes and heart disease. Coaches and activators have a crucial role to play in persuading people to move from an inactive to active lifestyle, thereby reducing the burden of disease on the nation. And at the heart of the strategy to influence behaviour change is ‘nudge theory’. When push comes to shove, a nudge in the right direction can encourage people to change their unhealthy lifestyles and make better choices. And employing techniques to nudge them back on track when their level of activity lapses also helps people sustain their new habits. Perhaps ‘Nudge nudge, think think’ would be a more appropriate sound bite. 

Nudge theory is explained in the blog: Learning behaviour change strategies will ensure your athletes keep coming back for more

  1. ‘Treat children like robots and they will act like robots’


This serves to illustrate the need for coaches to exercise creativity over repetition and to give children the opportunity to find their own solutions to problems and the freedom to think for themselves. Then, hey presto, sit back and marvel as they develop new skills. International consultant in child education Fred Donaldson phrases it this way: ‘Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play, children learn how to learn.’ 

Quote taken from the blog: Let the creative sparks fly: The ‘C’ system, chapter two 

  1. ‘Performance gives us a “snap-shot”, coaches should be more concerned with the “film”’

Talent identification (TiD) is the recognition of current participants with the potential to become elite performers. The crux of TiD is that potential should be prioritised over performance. Physical mismatches that develop during adolescence can cloud the judgement of coaches, camouflaging the emergence of others with talents. So how well individuals perform on any given day should not be the only gauge for detecting talent. The key is to keep the pool bigger for longer, so the late developers remain in the system long enough for the coaches to see them flourish – then give wings to those who have been flying under the radar.

Quote taken from the blog: Digging for diamonds: Talent identification process values potential over performance

What are your favourite coaching sound bites and why? All mottos, slogans, mantras and catchphrases welcome.

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Comments (4)


Great thought provokers!

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There is some really good stuff in here. I am a big advocate of #permissiontofail as it works wonders in getting coaches and athletes to push their boundaries and try new things.

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#5 leaves me speechless, good thing too.

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Great article. Too many coaches feel obliged to give constant feedback generally too long winded and specific to the skill or task being work on.

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